The EDITH ««^LORNE PIERCE
COLLECTION of CANADIANA
^lueeris University at Kingston
f^HE little group of less than two hundred
telephones of 1880 has grown to one hundred
thousayid. The upstairs room at 180 St. James
Street^ where our first switchboard was located^
has given place to eleven exchange buildings.
September • Nineteen Twenty-Three
BELL'S ORIGINAL GALLOWS-
WHILE experimenting on the harmonic tele-
graph in 1875, Bell outlined his idea of the
telephone to his associate, Thomas A. Watson, in
these words: —
'Tf I could make a current of electricity vary in
intensity precisely as the air varies in density dur-
ing the production of sound, I should be able to
transmit speech telegraphically."
So, by using the continuous current and by in-
tensifying and diminishing that current just as he
had foretold. Bell was able to transmit speech by
means of this crude instrument.
Montr ears FIRST
N Montreal forty odd years ago, men's minds were turn-
ing often to a closer linking up of the city with the South
Shore. A project was launched by the old South Eastern
Railway for a road across the ice to Longueuil, and in
January, 1880, rails were actually laid and an engine
and some cars crossed the river. But a little later, the engine
broke through and was lost, and so the scheme was abandoned.
Had the men of that day but known it, an idea had already
been born in the mind of a much-derided dreamer which was
to result in the greatest linking-up agent of all time. It was
to make a neighborhood of a nation, bringing within easy
speaking distance communities sundered by rivers, lakes,
plains and mountains, setting the bounds of communication
wider and wider.
Bell's Vision of the Future
Was ever a more remarkable prophecy made than that
of x^lexander Graham Bell in March, 1878? Addressing a group
of British capitalists — and this before the telephone had made
any real progress — he said: —
"It is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid under-
ground, or suspended overhead communicating by branch wires with pri-
vate dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc., etc., uniting
them through the main cable with a central office where the wire could be
connected as desired, establishing direct communication between any two
places in the city. Such a plan as this will, I firmly believe, be the outcome
An early type of Switchboard
Telephones patented by
Dr. Bell— 1876
of the introduction of the telephone to the public.
Not only so, but I believe in the future, wires
will unite the head offices of the Telephone Com-
pany in different cities, and a man in one part of
the country may communicate by word of mouth
with another in a different place. Believing as I
do that such a scheme will be the ultimate result
of the telephone to the public, I will impress upon
you all the advisability of keeping this end in
view, that all arrangements of the telephone may
be eventually realized in this grand system."
How well the telephone system of
Montreal today vindicates the judgment
of the great inventor! Here we have
Montreal ''Main" thirty-five years ago
268,000 miles of wire serving the city's
100,000 telephones. Two hundred and
twenty-eight thousand miles of this wire
are laid underground as Bell predicted
would be possible. Fifty-six thousand
telephones are in the private dwellings
that Bell prophesied would be thus served,
while the remaining 44,000 equip ''the
shops and manufactories" of Canada's
metropolis. Moreover, as Bell's vision
foresaw, telephone wires do unite the
head offices of the telephone company in
different cities, and a man in one part of
Type of Switchboard
W. H. SCOTT,
Manager, 1 880-1 897
The late D. C. DEWAR
Manager, 1 897-1 906
the country may in very truth communicate by word of mouth
with another in a different place.
Early Telephone Days in Montreal
The top floor of the present City and District Savings
Bank at i8o St. James Street was the home of the first Bell
Telephone exchange in Montreal. Here in 1880, a primitive
switchboard of what was known as the Gilliland type was
sufficient to serve the subscribers whose lines had been taken
over by the newly organized Bell Telephone Company of
Canada from the Montreal Telegraph Company and the Dom-
inion Telegraph Co. In 1886, these premises were abandoned
and a new exchange opened in the British Empire Building at
the corner of Notre Dame West and St. Francois Xavier streets.
R. F. JONES F. G. WEBBER
Manager, 1 906-191 5 Manager since 19 15
A switchboard with a capacity of some 2,000 lines was installed
The Uptown district was not slow to see the advantage
of so useful a service, and in January, 1 888, an exchange known
as ''West" was opened in a small store in the Queen's Hall
block, with about 300 lines in service.
Then in 1890 came a ''South" exchange, on the south side
of Notre Dame St. West, near Seigneurs, followed by a second
exchange in the British Empire Building called "Annex,"
which served to relieve the overcrowded Main switchboard
in the same building.
The demand from the East end soon led to the opening
of the first "East" Exchange, in the rear of the store of a well-
known herbalist, at the south-west corner of St. Christophe
''Information'' — Main Exchange
and St. Catherine Streets. This was in 1 888.
The First Underground
It was not until 1891 that the first
underground conduit was laid. It extend-
ed along St. Catherine Street, from the
corner of Mountain to St. Christophe.
This early conduit consisted of wooden
blocks treated with creosote and with a
three-inch hole bored through them. They
were found to be in a perfect state of pres-
Desk Telephone ervation when replaced many years later
^^^'^ by the modern type of underground con-
Trouble From Electric Railway
Up to 1892 all subscribers' telephones
were on the single wire system which used
the earth for the return current to com-
plete the circuit. When the electric street
railway began operations, the current
from its wires escaping through the earth
made the telephone lines so noisy as to
make conversation at certain hours almost
impossible. It therefore became necessary
immediately to reconstruct the entire
system, installing the present type of me-
tallic circuit by which each subscriber's
telephone utilizes a pair of wires from the central switchboard.
The First Prefixes
Prior to August, 1898, no central office prefixes such as
*'Main/' ''Uptown/' etc., were used by subscribers in calling
numbers. Up to this time it had been possible to assign to each
exchange a group of numbers within which all the lines con-
nected to that exchange would fall. Thus the number called
by a subscriber would at once indicate to the operator the
central office to which it was connected.
The limitations of this method were soon reached as the
system grew. On August 22nd, 1898, the use of prefixes in
calling numbers was begun, and the central offices then in
service were assigned the names ''Main," "East," "Uptown,"
"Westmount" and "South."
The countless improvements necessary to keep Mont-
real's telephone system abreast of successive developments of
the telephone art cannot be detailed here. They were for the
most part technical, and although involving the expenditure
of large sums of money, they went on behind the scenes and
were reflected chiefly in improved and ever-expanding service
to the community. Old premises were continually being vacat-
ed for larger quarters, and soon the necessity for housing com-
plex and costly equipment in substantial fireproof buildings
became evident. One by one the handsome structures that
are now recognized landmarks in the city's commercial and
residential areas came into being. The dates of their completion
may be of some interest. The present "Main" was first occupied
in August, 1897; ''East" in March, 1905; "Uptown" in June,
1 907 ; "Westmount," July, 1 908 ; "St. Louis," August, 1 909 ; "La-
Salle/' February,! 91 2 /^Victoria," July, 1 913 /'Rockland," Feb-
ruary, 1914; ''Calumet," March, 1920; "Melrose," July, 1917;
"Plateau," January, 1921.
Of Montreal's 100,000 telephones, 44,000 are in business,
and 56,000 in residence premises.
Over 2,000 operators are required to handle the City's
More than 950,000 calls are completed in the city daily,
of which 630,000 are trunked between central offices.
During the busiest hour of the business day 86,000 calls
Upwards of 4,400 long-distance calls originate in Montreal
each day, and there are over 8,100 incoming calls.
Two hundred and twenty-five long-distance circuits ter-
minate at our Montreal switchboard.
Montreal has 268,578 miles of telephone wire, 228,268
miles of which — 85 per cent
— are underground.
The Rise and Fall of the Telephone Tide
The replacement value
of telephone plant in Mont-
real is upwards of twenty-
two million dollars.
Bell Telephone engin-
eers estimate that five years
hence (1928) Montreal will
have 175,000 telephones in
AM — »Ol/PS — P.M.
THE RONALDS PRESS LIMITED